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Three Stanford GSE alumni receive recognition for contributions to educational excellence

The 2023 Alumni Excellence in Education Award recipients are (from left to right) Marciano Gutierrez, MA '06; Su Jin Jez, MA '06; and Joi Spencer, MA '99.

Three Stanford GSE alumni receive recognition for contributions to educational excellence

Marciano Gutierrez, Su Jin Jez, and Joi A. Spencer are the recipients of the 2023 Alumni Excellence in Education Awards.

Preparing the next generation of education leaders and scholars to make a difference in the world is a central component of the Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) experience. And for the past nine years, the GSE has recognized this pursuit with the Alumni Excellence in Education Award. 

This year, three GSE alumni are being acknowledged for their stewardship and innovation in education policy, leadership, and teaching. 

Awards will be presented to the following three educators at the award ceremony on Oct. 20:

  • Marciano Gutierrez, MA ’06, Middle College academic advisor and instructor at Foothill College
  • Su Jin Jez, MA ’06 and PhD ’08, CEO of California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy
  • Joi A. Spencer, BA ’94 and MA ’99, Dean of the University of California Riverside School of Education

“I am thrilled to honor these three outstanding leaders in education,” said Dan Schwartz, dean of the GSE. “The work they are doing to create pathways to careers in education and beyond is truly inspiring.”

A generous spirit

Gutierrez, who graduated from the Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP) in 2006, is an academic advisor and teacher of civics, economics and U.S. history at Foothill College’s Middle College program in Los Altos.

Prior to serving students at the nontraditional high school program, Gutierrez was an academic advisor and teacher at Alta Vista Continuation High School for 13 years, and was a national teaching ambassador fellow for the U.S. Department of Education. Marciano has also served in leadership and advisory roles with several organizations including the California Teachers Association, the National Education Association, the Hope Street Group and Edjoin.

“Marciano’s generous spirit, caring approach to others, and his giving personality permeate his personal and professional interactions, said Rachel Lotan, professor emerita and former director of STEP. “He embodies the best and most significant qualities of the teaching profession and is worthy of our recognition and gratitude.”

An advocate for justice

Jez, is the chief executive officer of California Competes, a nonprofit research and policy organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunities for California residents by addressing issues in education. 

Her interest in educational policy work that affects justice and fairness in education runs deep. The spark lit in high school.

Her illustrious career in education includes 11 years as an associate professor of public policy and administration at California State University, Sacramento; almost two years as director of the CSU Student Success Network, and membership on several volunteer boards including California Cradle-to-Career Data System, Tipping Point Community, and West Contra Costa Unified School District.

"What I see and experience in Su Jin's leadership is one that is future-oriented, catalyzing the integration of various benefit programs and sectors to support the modern student," said Tina Cheuk, MA '07 and PhD '19. "She is someone who recognizes that today’s postsecondary institutions serve diverse communities of learners with distinct needs."

A mentor to many

Spencer, who received her master’s degree in education from the GSE in 1999, is the first woman and person of color to lead as permanent dean of the University of California, Riverside School of Education.

Before helming UCR’s education school, Spencer spent 16 years as a professor of mathematics education at the University of San Diego, in addition to holding other roles at the university.

“I have had the privilege of working with Dr. Spencer on many initiatives designed to enhance

access, diversity, inclusion and equity in STEM, and I have watched her mentor college students, teachers and children,” said Perla Myers, executive director of the Jacobs Institute for Innovation in Education, and math professor at the University of San Diego. 

“She is exceptional and tireless in her advocacy, her impact on those around her is deep and evident in multidimensional ways, and she has had a profound effect on improving diversity and inclusiveness within the USD community and beyond.”

The big event

Each year, winners of the Alumni Excellence in Education Award are chosen by a panel that includes GSE alumni, faculty and the dean. Recipients also receive an honorarium made possible through the generosity and vision of Angela, ’93, and David Filo, MS ’90, and the Skyline Foundation.

Awardees are also celebrated at a ceremony during reunion weekend, and this year’s event will be hosted on Friday, Oct. 20, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Center for Educational Research at Stanford (CERAS).  Learn more about how recipients are selected and read up on past alumni awarded for their excellence in education.

To register or find out more about the event, email Tiffany Ah Tye at

The 2023 Alumni Excellence in Education Award recipients are (from left to right) Marciano Gutierrez, MA '06; Su Jin Jez, MA '06; and Joi Spencer, MA '99.

Faculty mentioned in this article: Dan Schwartz

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